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John DeShazier: Five things to watch in Saints-Buccaneers game

Saints need to get off to a fast start

  1. On paper, this looks like a game in which all the stars are aligned for the New Orleans Saints defensively, in terms of pressuring a quarterback and unsettling an offense. The Buccaneers (273 total yards) were putrid offensively in the season opener against Tennessee, and rookie quarterback Jameis Winston(16 for 33, 210 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and four sacks) struggled against the Titans. Winston totally isn't immobile, but he's not exactly agile, either. So the pressure the Saints applied against Arizona – particularly, the rush supplied by defensive ends Cam Jordanand Akiem Hicks and linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha– hopefully will result in a few takedowns this week if it's duplicated against Tampa Bay.

2. Delvin Breaux'sfirst NFL regular-season game was a mixed bag for the cornerback from New Orleans. He had a fumble recovery, five tackles and a pass defensed. But also, he committed three penalties (and actually committed four, but two occurred on the same play and, thus, only one could be accepted). The Buccaneers know that, and Breaux is going to have to prove he can hold up in coverage because teams may be more reluctant to try the battle-tested Brandon Browner. Browner (6 feet 4, 221 pounds) matches up well physically against Tampa Bay receivers Mike Evans (6-5, 231) and Vincent Jackson (6-5, 230). Breaux is smaller (6-1, 195) but extremely physical and a good cover corner. The Bucs probably will seek early to find out if Breaux has learned from his debut.

  1. The Saints likely will be looking for a bit more offensive balance this week. Drew Breesattempted 48 passes (and was sacked twice) against Arizona, while New Orleans only ran the ball 20 times. That kind of imbalance usually is a bad sign, though the argument can be made that screen passes to Mark Ingram(eight catches, 98 yards against the Cardinals) and Khiry Robinson(five catches, 51 yards) were as much extended handoffs as they were pass plays. Still, it won' t be surprising to see New Orleans get Ingram and Robinson more involved in terms of actual runs (Tennessee gained 124 rushing yards on 32 attempts against Tampa Bay). And we could see the debut of free agent signee C.J. Spilleras well, giving the Saints another option in the backfield.
  1. Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoyis a dominant force, arguably the best in the business when it comes to disrupting offenses in the middle. So his matchup against the Saints' interior – center Max Ungerand guards Jahri Evansand Tim Lelito– bears watching. McCoy can't be allowed to hassle Brees all day, either directly or by creating opportunities for his teammates. One of the reasons the Saints made the trade for Unger was for games against players like McCoy.
  1. New Orleans can't go 1 for 4 in the red zone again. There's really no other way to say it, so the offense simply has to take advantage of its opportunities when it reaches the red zone. And while Jimmy Grahamwas a crucial part of what the Saints wanted to accomplish when it reached the opponent' 20-yard line in the past, there still are capable players and formidable targets in place for Brees. It was an unexpected drought that was experienced in Arizona; this hasn't been a team that has experienced that kind of inefficiency over the last decade. So it's an area that has been addressed and the results likely will be reversed.

A bonus factor: It sounds unfathomable given the success the Saints have experienced in the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era, but New Orleans lost its last five home games last season by an average score of 32-17. The Saints need to start fast against the Bucs, to give the Mercedes-Benz Superdome crowd a reason to stay involved. Few teams feed off the juice supplied by the fans like the Saints do, and the team needs to find early success in order to have fans plug in. If the Superdome again is to become a venue that opposing teams dread seeing, the home opener will be a good place to start.

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